Located on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, the George W Bush Presidential Center opened in May 2013 and offers many hands on opportunities to learn about American (and world!) history at the start of the 21st century, Bush’s presidency. The museum is designed around four principles that President and Mrs. Bush valued: freedom, responsibility, opportunity, and compassion. The archives include over 70 million pages of documents and 4 million photographs. Individuals may make appointments for research room access.
Traveling with Kids:
There is a parking lot across the street from the center, which charges $5/first hour and a nominal fee for each additional hour. If that outdoor lot is full, you can park in one of the SMU garages, a quick walk from the museum.
Visitors walk through security and purchase tickets at a check in area. Restrooms are located before the main entrance to the exhibit halls.
The Museum is part of the Dallas CityPass ticket.
The center should be easy for little children to walk through, but you might the stroller in case they get tired. The entire museum is handicap accessible.
There is a full service restaurant, Café 43, open for lunch each day, and a Courtyard Cafe opened 9-5pm with sandwiches, soups, and snacks.
The museum offers a wide variety of programs for all ages. Check here for the calendar.
Ten Exhibits Children Will Enjoy in the Bush Center:
1. Begin in the main lobby. Look up at the ceiling and watch the eight minute “We the People” video set to music on LCD screens- it’s beautiful!
2. Learn about the background of America’s 43rd president: Bush is one of five children and father to twin girls, Barbara and Jenna. George W. and his father, George H.W. are one of two pairs of father-son presidents (John Adams and John Quincy Adams are the other pair). There is also a nine-minute introductory video narrated by Bush, but it focuses mainly on his presidency, with an emphasis on the tragedy of September 11, 2001. **There is a large exhibit on the tragedy of September 11, 2001 with news segments as the event unfolded on that day and a daily timeline of Bush’s travels throughout the month of September 2001. If you have young children, you can easily bypass this exhibit.
3. There is a great reading nook in the “Education Reform” exhibit highlighting First Lady Laura Bush’s campaign to promote literacy (The former First Lady was a former teacher and librarian). Children will love resting for a bit with a book from her National Book Festival program.
4. Count the number of baseballs in the “Tee Ball Games on the South Lawn” display; Bush, the only former Little Leaguer to become president, started a tradition of playing tee ball on the South Lawn of the White House.
5. Kids will love learning about daily life inside the White House through interactive touch screens. My kids especially liked learning about the Bushes’ three dogs: Spot, Barney, and Miss Beazley.
6. See the Bushes’ perspectives on some White House traditions like holidays and state dinners. There are eggs from the Easter egg roll and china place settings used for formal dinner (over 200 foreign leaders visited the White House for meetings and State dinners while Bush was in office).
7. Signed sports memorabilia from national championship teams that visited the White House.
8. A list of all recipients of medals for the National Medal of Arts, Humanities, and Science. See how many names you recognize and what they are honored for.
9. Decision Points Theater, where visitors must choose an issue and vote on resolutions (and there is a limited amount of time, so think quickly!)
10. A full size reproduction of the Oval Office, where visitors can have their photo taken seated at the Oval Office desk.
Bonus: A rotating exhibit is located in a separate exhibition space across from the permanent collection. The latest exhibit, Away from the White House: Presidential Retreats, opens in March of 2019. Find more info here.
If you’re a regular reader or follower, you may have picked up on the bucket list goal my family has to see all presidential libraries. The National Archives oversees 13 national presidential libraries, and to date we have explored 5 of them. You can read about our adventures at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York here, the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas here and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas here. We like collecting the stamps from each library for our passport. If you’re looking for more family fun in Dallas, check out the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.